Ira Hamilton Hayes – Gila River Pima
Paratrooper US Marine Corps, World War II
Ira Hayes was born in Sacaton, Arizona, on January 12, 1923. He was a member of the Gila River Pima, Akimel O’odham tribe when he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II. As a Paramarine, he fought in the Bogainville and Iwo Jima campaigns, where he was immortalized as one of the six soldiers raising the flag on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima, on February 25, 1945. The iconic photograph, taken by Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press, captured the heroic efforts Hayes and the other five flag-raisers, who became national heroes.
Hayes was commemorated for his heroic war efforts and as one of the six Iwo Jima flag raisers in art, music, and film. A huge bronze sculpture captures the moment photographed by Rosenthal at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia.
Hayes portrayed himself raising the flag in the Academy Award winning movie, Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), and his story inspired the movie The Outsider (1961), the movie Flags of Our Fathers (2006), and the song “The Ballad of Ira Hayes,” written by Peter La Farge and performed by Johnny Cash (1964).
During his 39 months of service, Hayes received the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat V for meritorious service, rated the Navy Combat Action Ribbon for combat participation in World War II, and received a Marine Corps World War II campaign participation star for Iwo Jima.
Today, his legacy continues to inspire American Indian veterans around the country. Hayes is recognized with various memorials, and is the namesake of schools, parks, veteran’s organizations and even a mountain peak. Some of the most notable memorials include:
- Marine Corps War Memorial (bronze statue of the flag raising at Iwo Jima) in Arlington, Virginia
- Hayes Peak, the northernmost mountain in the Estrella Mountains in Phoenix, Arizona
- Ira H. Hayes High School in Bapchule, Arizona
- Ira Hayes Park and statue in Sacaton, Arizona
- Marine Corps League, Ira Hayes Detachment 2, in Phoenix, Arizona
- American Legion, Ira Hayes Post 84, in Sacaton, Arizona
The legacy of Ira Hayes lives on. His tribe, the Gila River Indian Community, regularly honors veterans, and supports patriotic events and celebrations using the Ira Hayes American Legion Post 84 during their celebrations.